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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Among Seniors
Seniors are more active today than in any previous generation, and fatigue is generally expected as aging bodies cope with extra activities. However, fatigue that is above and beyond general tiredness may be a sign of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is characterized by the presence of overwhelming fatigue that remains constant over a period of months. People who experience CFS cannot operate at a full activity level without feeling extreme tiredness, among other symptoms. It is estimated that more than 1 million people in the United States suffer from it.
A study by the Cleveland Clinic showed that more than two-thirds of people diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome were infected with a virus known as XMRV, but more research needs to be performed before any link between the virus and the condition can be established.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is generally characterized by the presence of several concurrent symptoms, including fatigue that is worsened by physical activity, restless sleep, muscle aches, recurring headaches, muscle and joint pain and reduced concentration. Many of the symptoms are similar to that of the flu, but, in the case of CFS, the symptoms do not disappear over time.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may also experience chest pains, bloating, sore throat, nausea, weight loss or weight gain and psychological problems. Because these symptoms are so broad, seniors who suspect that they have CFS may actually have symptoms of another condition.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and seniors
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can affect people of any age group, and seniors are no exception. People between the ages of 40 and 50 are most likely to experience CFS symptoms, but seniors could experience more extreme symptoms than younger people.
As people age, their bodies are naturally less tolerant of extended physical activity, so seniors with chronic fatigue commonly experience more severe symptoms than younger people. Women are also more than four times as likely than men to suffer from CFS, so senior women are at a higher risk than senior men to experience the debilitating effects of this condition.
Strategies for treating chronic fatigue
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome symptoms are often the same as those of other diseases or conditions, so it is important for seniors who suspect they may have CFS to talk with their doctors to rule out other possibilities. Because there is no cure at this time for CFS, treatments generally involve lessening symptoms and helping patients cope with them. Treatments often include dietary changes, stress management, a conservative physical therapy program and therapies to improve sleep quality.